Friday the 13th saw Byron Rams in their first competition match since their loss to Alstonville in early April. Wet weather, the Easter break and (State) Solo Cup commitments have contributed to an erratic opening to the season.
Byron fielded a side unchanged and fresh from last week’s convincing 3-1 win over Coffs Harbour’s Northern Storm in Round 2 of the Solo Cup.
The starting line-up featured Layton Barton in goal, a back four of Toby Barton, Nolan Pierce, Bruce Morhaus and Sam “Kobe” Robson. Aaron Richter-Steers, Sam Owens & Corey “Monty” Montgomery filled mid-field with Tom Ruhl, KazahiroTsukamoto and the mercurial Jordy Campbell up front. The Rams started at a cracking pace with two early chances from Jordy Campbell and an opening goal, in the seventh minute, from Tom Ruhl.
Ballina struggled to come to terms with Byron’s pace and quick ball movement. Tom and Kazahiro added two more goals in quick succession leaving Ballina shell-shocked and in disarray.
Superb combination play from Montgomery and Owens down both flanks led to chance after chance as Ballina’s veteran custodian Wagland tried to restore order among his defenders. A rare Ballina incursion into the Rams half saw Morhaus penalised for a hand ball. The penalty was dispatched with aplomb to leave the half time score at 3-1 to the Rams.
The second half delivered more of the same, with good combinations from Ruhl, Campbell and Tsukamoto keeping the Ballina goal under threat.
A well worked free-kick from Campbell cleared the defence and Tommy Ruhl took the volley from 12 metres out to complete his hat-trick and take the Rams to a 4-1 lead. Moments later, a ball from keeper Layton to brother Toby at right back began a blistering four-man move down the right flank, with a superb cross, a towering header from Montgomery and the save of the game from Ballina keeper Wagland.
It was a stunning move that really deserved a goal. The boisterous and appreciative crowd didn’t have long to wait though, as Kazahiro slotted home 2 goals in quick succession to complete his own his hat-trick and take the Byron tally to six.
A five-goal cushion makes it easy for players to relax and express themselves and the Rams continued to press home their superiority. Ballina were chasing shadows as the Rams moved the ball around with devastating speed and precision.
Tom Ruhl took his fourth goal with a well-placed chip that left Wagland no chance.
The introduction of Jon Pierce, Korhan Ozakman & debutant youngster Dan Musgrave meant no respite at all for Ballina as the Rams continued to press.
The football was superb - exciting, entertaining and a credit to the players.
The eighth and final goal completed the rout as a Ballina defender, under pressure from Campbell, turned an Ozakman cross into the net for an own goal.
Target man Campbell’s match performance was memorable and inspiring and he truly deserved the goal.
Skipper Morhaus was sidelined with a thigh strain in the 88th minute and appeared to be in some trouble. This left 18-year-old Nolan Pierce as senior man at the back with Toby (15), Dan (16), Layton (18) and Robson (16) making up possibly the youngest back five in Premier League history.
It was a great result with fine performances from the entire team.
Aaron Richter-Steers was in imperious form as the mid-field anchor and the defence, superbly marshalled by Morhaus and Pierce, gave little away. It was a relatively quiet night for Layton in goal but he coped well with everything that came his way.
Corey Montgomery and Sam Owens were tireless through the mid-field and down the flanks.
Man of the match to Tom Ruhl with a special mention for Kazahiro for his hattrick and all round brilliance.
The Rams enter a tricky week with games against Pottsville at home on Tuesday and Thistles in Lismore on Sunday, full of confidence.
The reserves lost 6-5 in an absolute thriller, with Jon Pierce man of the match with a fine hat-trick. As the score would suggest, defence was sloppy from both sides.